Say NO to Orphan Works Act…

As an editorial cartoonist I try, I really, really try to stay away from hackneyed stereotypes. You know, like nefarious politicians in the pocket of well-funded special interest groups sneaking suspect legislation through the system under cover of a larger crisis, say, a Wall Street meltdown. But then this happens:

Last week the US Senate managed to approve something called the Orphan Work Act. Didn’t hear about it? Well, frankly, that’s by design. I’ve read quite a bit about it, and I’ve included some links below if you’d like details but the best summary I’ve seen is this: It’s one of those laws that in attempting to address a minor problem creates a major one. Say I draw a comic and it gets published. Some time later, a magazine or book publisher finds it through Google, but my name has been removed and it isn’t immediately obvious that I’m the author. To them, it’s “orphaned.” As is now under copyright law, the onus is on them to find out who the author is and I have decent legal protection if they go ahead and republish without permission. With the Orphan Work Act, the onus would be on me to find the unauthorized work, and in the unlikely event that I did find it, my legal recourse would be limited and prohibitively expensive.

So off to the House it goes. Hopefully it won’t make it through. If you have time, contacting your representative would help.

1 Comment »

  1. John Auchter said,

    October 1, 2008 @ 10:07 am

    This just in from the AAEC:
    According to, the Orphan Works Act is apparently dead for this session of congress. While the Senate used the cover of Friday night and the financial meltdown to sneak this stinker through, the House (because of their failure to pass The Bailout Monday) is now completely mired in passing Bailout II to deal with anything else.

    This doesn’t mean the issue has gone away for good — the large corporations that want this will be back.

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